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Incidents Thought and Reason

Chennai Diaries – Part 1

Debs gave me this idea.. to write about the little incidents that happen here, during my short stay in Chennai! So let me shoot…

* We took this arduous journey of almost 17 hours to reach Chennai! It was an indirect flight, via Bombay (I cannot yet bring myself to say Mumbai!). Inflight, it was stuffy and warm, and I had a splitting head-ache for half the journey! Then the plane hovered around for about 30 minutes in the air, because it couldn’t land due to air-traffic congestion!! We finally reached home at 5:30 am!! Luckily, my favourite nephew was awake to welcome us, so that eased away all the trouble of travelling!!

* We were jet-lagged for the first three days. The Chennai weather did nothing to help us out. Strangely, until the day we landed, (we are told), the weather in Chennai was supposedly awesome.. warm during the day, but chill at night! Sigh!

* Just as I recovered from jet-lag, my paternal Grandma passed away. The family was expecting it for a couple of weeks, as she was ailing, but when the phone rang at 12:30 am, it was a bit of a jolt!!

* This morning, I witnessed an ‘auto fight’ 🙂 It was fun. Fun, because the auto-driver was negotiating with a foreigner over the fare to be paid! For non-Chennai-ites, you must know something – Chennai autos do not believe in the concept of ‘metre readings’ or ‘fair fares’ 🙂 they believe in harassing and fleecing ‘savaari’ or passengers 🙂 So we saw this auto driver arguing with a foreign lady. And the Hero that my Dad likes to be, he shouted at the auto-driver and said, foreigners will think we are all beggars! The dutiful daughter that I am, I supported him, by saying ‘What will ‘they’ think of ‘us”. Only to realise, after a few minutes, that the auto-driver was actually asking for a reasonable amount. And that the poor foreigner was actually leaving a posh silk-saree shop!!! So much for ‘hospitality’ towards ‘foreigners’ 🙂

* A strange conversation with my dearest maternal grandmother this evening. According to our custom, the son/family is not allowed to perform anything auspicious or even visit temples/undertake pilgrimage for 1 year from the time of death in the family. I was cribbing about this insane custom to my grandma. When she said, that as a young girl of about 6 or 7, she remembers being shocked at a woman in her village (Poondi), who lost her husband, and confined herself to the four walls of her house for an entire year!!!

While I think this is outrageous, there could be a couple of reasons for such a stupid custom…

1- The family is in mourning, so they cannot venture out. One year was probably a fair enough period for them to ‘move on’.

2- The family cannot afford to undertake anything, be it a function or pilgrimage, as people did not save quite that much in the olden days!

3- The widow must be protected from other men (or women) who might try to take advantage of her frail situation.

While I found all the above utterly insane, one point that my Grandma made was striking! She said ‘It is specifically at such a time, that the bereaved family needs support from other people’, so to cut them away from the rest of the world is insane! Kudos to my Grandma for saying that!

* The rich-poor divide in India has always been talked about. Infact we have lived our entire life through this divide, struggling each day, to ensure we are on the right side!! But the more we look around, the deeper this divide gets imprinted in our mind. Yesterday, I went to get my old watches repaired, and spent about Rs.340 on them. Then I realised my slipper had snapped, so decided to buy a new one. In the meanwhile however, I spotted a cobbler, and got the slipper mended by him. The man sat hunched, cruching in the little shade that the bare tree could offer. He did his job, and when I handed out a Rs.20 note, he returned Rs.15 to me. It struck me as so unfair. That labour is so cheap!! What would that man do with such a meagre amount of Rs.5??? Even if he repaired 20 pairs of slippers that day, he would not make more than Rs.100… on his good days, probably Rs.250 or 300? Or Rs.500 perhaps? Is that enough, TO LIVE A LIFE OF DIGNITY?????

* We had an awesome little blogger’s meet this afternoon. Uma, Kanagu, Aarthi, Vimmu (who made a guest appearance), Anish and yours truly met up and had a ball!!! We did take some pictures, but I have this bad feeling that I’ve accidentally deleted the pics I took. So I bank on Uma to upload her pics on FB. Oh, and she baked this yummylicious and totally drool-worthy chocolate cake for us 🙂 that we ate secretly under the tables, when the power went out!!!

* And finally, this evening, came the awful news of IHM’s daughter. Tears rolled freely, as I read Tejaswee’s blog. And a particular post called ‘On dying early’. My deepest condolences to dear  IHM. I feel choked. So I have to sign off now.

More later…..